Sunday 16 December 2018

Judge praises bravery of two witnesses as murderer jailed

Sorcha Griffith

A JUDGE paid tribute yesterday to the bravery of two witnesses whose evidence got a cold-blooded killer jailed for life.

Bernard Dempsey shot dead former kick boxing champion James Curran in a crowded pub.

Bernard Kinsella and Mary Kennedy witnessed the murder and their evidence was crucial in securing the conviction.

Mary Kennedy's identification was particularly valuable - she is Dempsey's sister. Dempsey (48) from Golden Lane, Dublin, had denied murdering Curran (42) in the pub on April 3, 2005.

The jury of ten men and two women returned a unanimous guilty verdict in the Central Criminal Court.Mr Justice Paul Carney, imposed the mandatory life sentence, saying this was the third murder he had seen where somebody undisguised in a pub put a bullet into somebody else's head in front of a crowd.

He said that due to the bravery of witnesses in two out of the three cases, those responsible for the murders were successfully convicted.

"It is totally socially unacceptable that someone loses their memory in trials such as these," he said. The court had heard that, on the night of the murder, about 30 people were in the small pub in Francis St, Dublin.

Bernard Kinsella, a karaoke operator who had never worked in the pub before, was urging customers to get up and sing.

Dempsey arrived in the pub with a group of family and friends sometime after nine.

At around 10.15pm, Dempsey, who had been drinking at the bar, walked calmly towards the table where James Curran was sitting with a number of other people and shot him in the head three times at point-blank range. He then gestured to the crowd of shocked onlookers with his gun, and walked out of the pub as calmly as he had walked up to his victim moments before.

The prosecution's case rested largely on the evidence of Kinsella, and Mary Kennedy, neither of whom, prosecuting counsel Brendan Grehan said, had "an axe to grind with anyone".

Mr Kinsella said he saw Dempsey walk calmly over to the table where James Curran was sitting. "He seemed to bend down as if to say something to him. I was singing, then I heard a bang as if it was a cap-gun. I looked up and I saw the man standing over him with a gun in his hand. I saw two shots being fired," he said.

After that, he said he stood in disbelief. "I couldn't hear because the speakers were beside me. He seemed to gesture with the gun but I didn't hear what he said. There was absolute panic. Then the gentleman walked calmly out the door." When gardai arrived, he was one of a handful of people left in the pub and he gave a description of the culprit. Two weeks later when gardai had arrested Dempsey, Mr Kinsella identified him in an identification parade at Kevin Street Garda Station.

Mary Kennedy was one of three women sitting at the table with James Curran when he was murdered. She said she was talking to one of the other women when she heard a bang.

"I looked at Jim Curran. There were splatters of blood coming from the back of his head. His eyes appeared horrible," she said. She told the court her brother Bernard was standing directly behind him with his arms outstretched as the two other shots were fired. Later, she broke down in the witness-box as she told prosecuting counsel Brendan Grehan that although she didn't see his hands, his actions could not have been an attempt to help the victim.

Emotion

Dempsey, who was well-dressed throughout the trial but wore a navy t-shirt yesterday, merely scratched his ear as the verdict was read out, and showed no sign of emotion.

In his victim impact statement, Brendan Curran, a brother of the victim, told the court his entire family had been "traumatised by this act of wanton destruction on a young life".

Speaking directly to Dempsey he said: "You've put a hole in my mother's heart. You've put a hole in all our hearts. and they have been filled with grief which is everlasting. I hope you can live with that."

After the verdict he said: "I feel shocked. There are no words for it."

He added: "Justice is served."

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